February 22, 2007

Friday, 2/23

NYS 7:37
LAT 4:45
2/9 CHE 4:41
NYT 3:37
CS 3:23

WSJ 8:05
Reagle 7:23

(post udpated at 10:25 a.m. Friday)

Whoo-hoo! I think that's the fastest I've ever done a Friday NYT. Yessiree, I liked this puzzle by Patrick Merrell. (Whom I owe five bucks to, and I actually wrote out a check last May but I haven't mailed it, even though it sits on my desk. Because, apparently, I am a deadbeat. There. I said it. May as well hand over cash—with interest—next month at Stamford, eh?)

I was getting a little Oscar-fatigued by all the Oscar-themed puzzles in the Sun this week, so I was prepared to grumble about Frank Longo's Friday offering, but then the clues kicked my butt and made me like it.

Going back to the NYT, Pat's puzzle almost had a theme: long entries that are wonderfully fresh nuggets of in-the-language goodness. I mean, WHAT THE HECK? (I opted for HELL first. Whoops.) SEE HERE, phrases like BEATS ME and IT'S A LONG STORY are hardly BROKEN ENGLISH (although a TEXT MESSAGE often is exactly that). This puzzle really shines for its fill (and I'm not just saying that to make sure that Pat's enforcers don't break my kneecaps at Stamford). Favorite clues: [Standard jacket feature] for BLURB, [26 on a table] for IRON, [Poet/cartoonist Silverstein] for SHEL (because I've got another of his books on reserve for my son's birthday gifts), [Smithereens] for ATOMS, and [Do 80, say] for TEAR. RENEE is clued as [Girl's name meaning "born again"]—so when will RENE be clued as a boy's name in that vein? (Guys named René are ill-served by René Russo clues.) I'm grateful for traffic in the Orlando area to be so hideous that I've had plenty of time to peruse the map in the passenger seat, making ALTAMONTE Springs a gimme.

In the Sun, the theme of "Oscar MC-Jobs" is Oscar telecast hosts, whose last names double as ordinary nouns (hence, no Whoopi Goldberg). Billy feeds into LIQUID CRYSTAL displays; Chris is ROLLING ROCK beer; Bob's a RAY OF HOPE; Steve's a HOUSE MARTIN; and Chevy has to CUT TO THE CHASE. Educational aspects: I hadn't known that boondocks comes from TAGALOG; very specifically my mother-in-law, then, could be said to be from the boondocks. An ALIQUOT isn't just from chemistry—it's mathematical, too. There's a UKRainian river named Bug. I also learned that Popeye (and OLIVE) creator E.C. Segar's full name is Elzie Crisler Segar (yeah, I'd go with the initials, too). Some of the clues I liked and/or was stumped by: [Spud, e.g.] for VEGGIE, [Play presentation] for OBIE, [Not one of the big dogs] for TOY, [What you might do while running away from home] for TAG UP, [One who never gets out] for LIFER, [Pilot, for example] for EPISODE, and [Square meal part?] for MATZOH. (Too bad YOU TOO wasn't clued with "Et tu," though.)


Merl Reagle's Philadelphia Inquirer puzzle for this Sunday is called "Lesser-Known One-Named People of History." In it, Merl wrenches sound-similar puns out of 14 names from history, philosophy, and art. I won't spoil them, but the funniest ones were 43-Across and 123-Across.

You know all those clever clues for ED or EDS or EDITOR that you see, especially in late-week crosswords? (Hypothetical example: [New York leader] for EDITOR.) Well, Randolph Ross has flipped them. In his Wall Street Journal crossword, "Editorial Board," the clues all specify what sort of magazine's editor(s) he means, and most of the theme entries are phrases I've seen used as clues elsewhere. I actually had looked up some of those EDITORial clues when I was working on my book a few months ago, so that was a giant (but not unwelcome) spoiler for this puzzle.

Jim Leeds' Chronicle of Higher Ed puzzle, "Class Openings," imagines geeky valentine lines (this was published before Valentine's Day) for various academic pursuits. Cute! My favorite was the classics student's YOU'RE ALL AENEID.

The theme entries in Randolph Ross's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Body Building," are Picassoesque. The STOMACH's in the middle, but the MOUTH and HEAD are below it while the NECK and FINGER are up top.

In his LA Times puzzle, Richard Chisholm swaps -NCE for -NTS endings. Elsewhere in the puzzle, I like the evocation of [Carving figureheads] as a LOST ART. Too bad today's ships aren't bedecked with figureheads like these—though would it have killed the artisans of old to be a little more inclusive? The pirate, warrior, and Viking are the only male figurines, and they're not remotely beefcaky.